NEW DELHI: From clinching deals on Kalashnikov assault rifles and very-short range air defence missile systems (VSHORADS) to a military logistics pact, upgraded combat exercises and more joint projects, Russia is now looking to challenge the US as India’s pre-eminent strategic partner and defence supplier.
Ahead of the annual Modi-Putin summit on December 6, coinciding with the inaugural two-plus-two dialogue between their foreign and defence ministers, hectic negotiations are currently underway to put finishing touches on a wide-ranging strategic-defence agenda.
While there is now deep India-US strategic congruence across the spectrum, with New Delhi also inking defence deals worth over $21 billion with Washington since 2007, Russia wants to assert its long-standing special strategic partnership with India. Russia, incidentally, has notched up military sales worth well over $65 billion to India since the early-1960s.
Russia is also apprehensive about India’s determined push for self-reliance in defence production. But it can take heart that the decks have finally been cleared for the long-pending Rs 5,124 crore project to manufacture over six lakh AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles at Korwa ordnance factory in UP’s Amethi, even as the $1.5 billion deal for India to acquire VSHORADS from Russia is also now in the “final stages”, said sources.
The shoulder-fired Russian anti-aircraft missile system IGLA-S, which was selected over French and Swedish systems in the fray, is designed for use against visible enemy targets like aircraft, helicopters and drones.
“The Army requires over 5,000 such missiles, launchers and associated equipment. The deal, when it happens, will include an initial off-the-shelf purchase followed by technology transfer to Bharat Dynamics for subsequent production,” said a source.
The long-pending project for 200 twin-engine Kamov-226T light helicopters to replace old single-engine Cheetah and Chetak choppers of the Army (135) and the IAF (65) for around $2 billion remains stuck at technical evaluation stage.
India is planning to next year ink the deals for 21 MiG-29s, along with the upgrade of the 59 such fighters already with the IAF, as well as 12 additional Sukhoi-30MKIs, with advanced electronic warfare capabilities, additional supplies and spares. The two deals together will cost over Rs 20,000 crore. The two countries are also set to ink the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement. The bilateral talks next month will also include fast-tracking of deliveries for the five S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile squadrons under the $5.43 billion (Rs 40,000 crore) contract in 2018.Internet Explorer Channel Network